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Publication 535

Chapter 3
Rent Expense(p8)


This chapter discusses the tax treatment of rent or lease payments you make for property you use in your business but do not own. It also discusses how to treat other kinds of payments you make that are related to your use of this property. These include payments you make for taxes on the property.


Useful items

You may want to see:

  538 Accounting Periods and Methods
  544 Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets
  946 How To Depreciate Property
See chapter 12 for information about getting publications and forms.


Rent is any amount you pay for the use of property you do not own. In general, you can deduct rent as an expense only if the rent is for property you use in your trade or business. If you have or will receive equity in or title to the property, the rent is not deductible.

Unreasonable rent.(p9)

You cannot take a rental deduction for unreasonable rent. Ordinarily, the issue of reasonableness arises only if you and the lessor are related. Rent paid to a related person is reasonable if it is the same amount you would pay to a stranger for use of the same property. Rent is not unreasonable just because it is figured as a percentage of gross sales. For examples of related persons, see Related persons in chapter 2, Publication 544.

Rent on your home.(p9)

If you rent your home and use part of it as your place of business, you may be able to deduct the rent you pay for that part. You must meet the requirements for business use of your home. For more information, see Business use of your home in chapter 1.

Rent paid in advance.(p9)

Generally, rent paid in your trade or business is deductible in the year paid or accrued. If you pay rent in advance, you can deduct only the amount that applies to your use of the rented property during the tax year. You can deduct the rest of your payment only over the period to which it applies.

Example 1.(p9)

You are a calendar year taxpayer and you leased a building for 5 years beginning July 1. Your rent is $12,000 per year. You paid the first year's rent ($12,000) on June 30. You can deduct only $6,000 (6/12 × $12,000) for the rent that applies to the first year.

Example 2.(p9)

You are a calendar year taxpayer. Last January you leased property for 3 years for $6,000 a year. You paid the full $18,000 (3 × $6,000) during the first year of the lease. Each year you can deduct only $6,000, the part of the lease that applies to that year.

Canceling a lease.(p9)

You generally can deduct as rent an amount you pay to cancel a business lease.

Lease or purchase.(p9)

There may be instances in which you must determine whether your payments are for rent or for the purchase of the property. You must first determine whether your agreement is a lease or a conditional sales contract. Payments made under a conditional sales contract are not deductible as rent expense.
Conditional sales contract.(p9)
Whether an agreement is a conditional sales contract depends on the intent of the parties. Determine intent based on the provisions of the agreement and the facts and circumstances that exist when you make the agreement. No single test, or special combination of tests, always applies. However, in general, an agreement may be considered a conditional sales contract rather than a lease if any of the following is true.
Leveraged leases.(p9)
Leveraged lease transactions may not be considered leases. Leveraged leases generally involve three parties: a lessor, a lessee, and a lender to the lessor. Usually the lease term covers a large part of the useful life of the leased property, and the lessee's payments to the lessor are enough to cover the lessor's payments to the lender.
If you plan to take part in what appears to be a leveraged lease, you may want to get an advance ruling. Revenue Procedure 2001-28 on page 1156 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 2001-19 contains the guidelines the IRS will use to determine if a leveraged lease is a lease for federal income tax purposes. Revenue Procedure 2001-29 on page 1160 of the same Internal Revenue Bulletin provides the information required to be furnished in a request for an advance ruling on a leveraged lease transaction. Internal Revenue Bulletin 2001-19 is available at
In general, Revenue Procedure 2001-28 provides that, for advance ruling purposes only, the IRS will consider the lessor in a leveraged lease transaction to be the owner of the property and the transaction to be a valid lease if all the factors in the revenue procedure are met, including the following.
The IRS may charge you a user fee for issuing a tax ruling. For more information, see Revenue Procedure 2015-1 available at
Leveraged leases of limited-use property.(p9)
The IRS will not issue advance rulings on leveraged leases of so-called limited-use property. Limited-use property is property not expected to be either useful to or usable by a lessor at the end of the lease term except for continued leasing or transfer to a lessee. See Revenue Procedure 2001-28 for examples of limited-use property and property that is not limited-use property.

Leases over $250,000.(p9)

Special rules are provided for certain leases of tangible property. The rules apply if the lease calls for total payments of more than $250,000 and any of the following apply. These rules do not apply if your lease specifies equal amounts of rent for each month in the lease term and all rent payments are due in the calendar year to which the rent relates (or in the preceding or following calendar year).
Generally, if the special rules apply, you must use an accrual method of accounting (and time value of money principles) for your rental expenses, regardless of your overall method of accounting. In addition, in certain cases in which the IRS has determined that a lease was designed to achieve tax avoidance, you must take rent and stated or imputed interest into account under a constant rental accrual method in which the rent is treated as accruing ratably over the entire lease term. For details, see section 467 of the Internal Revenue Code.